Woodland Public Library (WPL) Trustees met on March 3 to consider numerous matters, among these being a virtual meltdown / crash of library computer access during the last half of February. This computer breakdown remains ongoing.

Only a handful of computers have been operable, the newer models, mostly used for access basically limited to 15 minutes (at which time the computer fully resets).

As of this trustees’ meeting, only nine of the library’s nineteen computers are in operation, an improvement over conditions during February, when at times no access was available other than 15 minutes at a couple of computers.

To post this news report, Yolo Sun spent three and a half hours of time at or near the library, accessing a computer. Library staff is spending a lot of time managing this chaotic / dysfunctional public computer system.

Serving a primary resource role for a community the size of Woodland (about 60,000 residents), American Library Association Guidelines indicate that WPL should have about sixty public-access computers, one for every thousand residents.

Waits of twenty minutes to more than an hour are common for computer access for an hour, even if all nineteen WPL computers are fully operable.

Wireless capability at WPL for internet connection by personal, portable computers is unaffected.

Needless to say, community residents depending upon a meaningful and convenient crossing of the digital divide at WPL have been and are being virtually frustrated, with no firm indication of a pending remedy.

City Information Technology (IT) staff have predicted to the WPL Services Director that a remedy should be discovered, evaluated and implemented in two weeks (mid-March); but Heather Muller, fairly experienced with technology, remains uncertain.

____  Strange Affairs With Library And City IT Staff  ____

For many years preceding the current fiscal year, the library has annually been charged by the city about $73,000 for relevant (IT) services (related to chronically inflated general overhead charged to the library, still an issue for trustees) — basically the equivalent of a full-time staff position.

Since the library has never used anything even close to such a full-time staff position, trustees previously objected to this unreasonable / unfair charge (essentially, using library funds to support other municipal services), and it has been waived within the library’s current municipal budget.

Speculation by trustees arrived at a probable cause of the computer crash being: obsolete hardware meeting incompatible software.

The library’s reservation system for its computers was recently updated, abruptly crashing all but those few computers apparently new enough to absorb this (regular) upgrade. City IT staff perhaps weren’t familiar enough with the library computers to reasonably predict such a catastrophe.

Although, an identical computer catastrophe involving its reservation system occurred at the library a few years ago, recollected library staff outside the trustees’ meeting; in fact – this prior crash was caused by its computer reservation system’s last update.

Library staff recalled that its computers were then inoperable for several weeks, until representatives of vendor software for this reservation system and city IT staff could somehow patch-up and tie-together a technological fix for (that incident’s) relevant incompatibility.

This previous computer breakdown happened during the time period when WPL was annually being charged over $73,000 by the city for IT support.

Purportedly having such funding for library IT purposes apparently had no effect in the area of institutional memory, perhaps protecting WPL from this subsequent, meaningfully identical computer breakdown.

An avenue of relief may be found within practical experience of other local library systems (such as Sacramento Public Library) which utilize similar reservation-program software, suggests Heather Muller, WPL Services Director.

But it seems city IT staff have been dragging their feet in this area. Muller indicates that some added help from Yolo County Public Library Services Director, Patty Wong, has perhaps been successful at persuading city IT staff to finally meet with their counterparts at Sacramento Public Library on March 10 to explore these circumstances.

One reason for such inter-library collaboration is that when resources are unavailable at one public library, nearby libraries receive a sudden surge of public use. Since public access to computers is frustrated at WPL, the Yolo County Public Library experiences inflated (relocated) traffic on its computers.

 ____  City IT Staff Unlawfully Screened Internet Content  ____

In related news, it has been determined by Muller that city IT staff have been “monitoring” (IT term) certain internet content related to access with library computers. This “monitoring” was effectively filtering all content from WordPress ( http://wordpress.com ), one of the largest blog stations / portals.

Yolo Sun is a WordPress affiliate, and was for some period of time(s) being screened away from all city computers.

City IT staff was informed by Muller that, by law and custom: No internet content screening is permissible regarding WPL computer access; however, IT staff then warned Muller that if library computer system were somehow “hacked” from blogsites, “the library is on its own, and we won’t come running to help.”

Trustees took a very dim view of such conduct by city IT staff, adding this item to their growing list of concerns to soon bring to city hall.

____  2011-2012 Library Budget Looms  ____

City of Woodland will convene public comment on the initial 2011-2012 municipal budget projections on March 29.

The first city department to conduct its preliminary budget conference with City management will be WPL, on March 7.

WPL Trustees were greatly baffled by the preliminary budget paperwork presented by the City, numerous times asserting that: “These numbers / figures don’t make any sense / don’t add up,” repeatedly alleging areas of clear / fantastic error.

City administration of special public-library funding remains a prominent issue for trustees, anticipating a joint meeting with city council and staff on March 17.

Category “917” funds are currently being charged 10% annually for municipal administration (~$10,000). Trustees believe this rate to be excessive, analogizing that professional financial managers only charge 1% or 2% to administer funding. These funds are designated specifically for only library related uses, and are not a part of the city Genral Fund.

“10% seems pretty excessive,” observed a trustee; “we’d be willing to negotiate something reasonable (like 1%).”

“Plus, the city can’t even tell us how much money is in the [917] fund,” added another trustee. “You’d think that for 10% your money manager could say how much money you have.”

WPL Services Director Muller has prepared a suggested Library budget (approved by trustees) which will be considered at the conference on March 7m and perhaps also at the joint meeting of March 17, where it is hoped the various errors in municipal figures (discussed in detail by trustees) would become resolved.

This proposed 2011-12 budget will permit WPL to continue to operate within its reduced format (40 hours per week, down from 56 two years ago). WPL is open 9 am to 7 pm Monday through Thursday, but closed on Friday and Sunday, with only a half-day (noon to 4 pm) on Saturday.

Primary for the library is the challenge that Governor Brown has proposed eliminating all state public-library funding, which would leave a nearly $100,000 (~10%) hole in the WPL budget for 2011-12 (at least).

Voters adopted a (four-year) quarter-cent increase in local sales tax in June 2010, among other things to stabilize WPL on its present public access path, functioning at about half of its basic staffing level of only two years ago — confronting ever increasing public demands for its services.

During the Great Depression, WPL remained on its regular schedule and basic operation; but the Great Recession has suddenly and sorely reduced its hours and resources.

Perhaps these changing conditions illustrate a community transformation.

____  Woodland Literacy Service May Be State’s Best  ____

Interesting counterpoint to library funding contortions ironically exists in the associated Woodland Literacy Service (WLS), which functions in concert with WPL.

Sue Bigelow, WLS Director, appeared before WPL Trustees to jointly discuss budget / operational matters. WLS will lose almost $60,000 of funding as a result of implementation of Governor Brown’s proposed budget cuts.

Many months ago, WPL Trustees formally requested to the city that Bigelow’s position be made full-time, based on reasoning that she was easily working such hours — plus fully funding her status by means of various monetary grants (not from municipal resources).

Trustees also recognized that Bigelow has already realistically accounted for “84% of her total [2011-12, ~$180,000] budget,” with pending grants almost guaranteed to significantly exceed it.

Nevertheless, required municipal action approving Bigelow’s full-time status has unreasonably lingered before the city manager, believe trustees.

Bigelow indicates data showing WLS to be accounting for — ~3% of all statewide provision of literacy services — quite astonishing within a state of such huge dimensions.

Woodland represents only ~ 0.16% of total state population.

Trustees eagerly agreed with Bigelow’s assessment that before she became WLS Director (three years ago), its receipt of grant funding “was peanuts,” compared to what she has managed to swiftly generate.

____  WLS Board “Demands” Increased Municipal Funding  ____

WPL Trustees have received a request from the WLS Board of Directors, that it assist during upcoming budget considerations in: “Demanding” municipal funding be substantially increased from its current $7500; “chump change,” agreed one Trustee. 

Bigelow reports that alongside this current city funding, the city charges WLS more than $16,000 annually to operate, including over $1200 for use of two computers, vague charges for telephones and other questionable items of overhead.

Essentially, describes Bigelow: “We’re paying the city about $9000 a year to operate its successful literacy program.”